Palestinian immigrant owner of a supermarket chain in Minneapolis protests cancellation culture

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The immigrant owner of a supermarket chain in Minneapolis has spoken out against culture of cancellation after his company was attacked last summer over racist tweets his daughter made as a teenager.

Majdi Wadi, the founder and CEO of Holy Land brands, had to fire 69 longtime employees last summer after outraged social media reactions over his daughter Lianne’s 2012 tweets, he revealed on Bari Weiss’s new podcast.

Weiss, the former New York Times editor who left the paper last year and cited wake-up bullying, called the incident a prime example of “America’s cultural revolution” in the first episode of her podcast series. Fair.

Lianne Wadi, then working as a catering director for Holy Land, apologized profusely for her old tweets and was fired by her father, but it did nothing to stop the mob’s outrage at the family business, leading sellers to cancel $5 million in contracts. and the landlord in one location to revoke the lease.

“This mob was very powerful in a way. For example, I remember a man who wrote a tweet defending the Holy Land and saying, “No Holy Land is a good family,” Majdi said.

“They attacked him and canceled him… this is what scared me the most. This is not what America is about,” he added.

Majdi Wadi (center), the founder and CEO of Holy Land brands in Minneapolis, fired his daughter Lianne (right) over her racist teen tweets, but still lost millions in protests

Majdi Wadi (center), the founder and CEO of Holy Land brands in Minneapolis, fired his daughter Lianne (right) over her racist teen tweets, but still lost millions in protests

Bari Weiss, the former New York Times editor who left the paper last year, did an in-depth interview with Majdi for the first episode of her new podcast, Honestly.

Bari Weiss, the former New York Times editor who left the paper last year, did an in-depth interview with Majdi for the first episode of her new podcast, Honestly.

In the interview, Majdi told how he was born in Kuwait as a stateless Palestinian refugee before immigrating to America in 1992 and building his business from scratch.

Holy Land, a multi-enterprise business, has several specialty stores, a restaurant, bakery and catering service, and produces a popular brand of hummus sold by major retailers.

The saga involving Majdi’s daughter Lianne unfolded in the early days of June last year when Minneapolis and the nation were rocked by video footage of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.

The Wadi family, like many others, were shocked by the images and responded by hanging BLM banners from their stores and donating food to protesters.

Lianne also joined Black Lives Matter protesters on the streets of Minneapolis to express her outrage over Floyd’s death — but as she marched, her already-deleted tweets as a teenager mysteriously resurfaced.

The tweets expressed a damaging array of racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay sentiments.

In one, she wrote, “#HighSchoolTaughtMe If your Somali automatically hated you<3."

She also said a fake Hitler account “reads my mind.” The original tweet said ‘Top 3 races you want to eliminate. Ready, go! Jews, blacks and the fat.’

Holy Land was a popular multi-business brand in Minneapolis, and celebrity chef Guy Fiere even stopped by the family restaurant during his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show.

Holy Land was a popular multi-business brand in Minneapolis, and celebrity chef Guy Fiere even stopped by the family restaurant during his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show.

Last June, someone dug up Lianne's tweets from 2016, which she had already deleted, sparking furious protests against the family business.

Last June, someone dug up Lianne’s tweets from 2016, which she had already deleted, sparking furious protests against the family business.

While emotions were already running high over Floyd’s murder, BLM protesters channeled some of their anger at Holy Land, bombarded the company with nasty social media posts and phone calls, and even harassed customers and employees in the parking lot. the shops.

Lianne offered a fawning apology on television, telling WCCO-TV, “I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

“They were such horrible and despicable things, and that’s not who I am. It’s not what I believe in,” she said.

Still, the outrage grew and Majdi responded by firing his daughter.

“As a father and as CEO, I faced a difficult decision. As a father, I know who my daughter has become, but as CEO of this company I have 189 families living off my company, and if this question from the people they message and call us, I give it to them even though I feel that it’s not fair to my daughter,” Majdi recalled in the new interview.

“Hopefully this will calm the anger, but it still hasn’t,” he said. “They have my home address in the social media… People are asking other people to come and attack where I live. I had to evacuate the house for ten days, live in the secret place where no one knows where my family is.’

Major suppliers, including Costco, Target, Sam’s Club and Super Value, dropped Holy Land products from their stores, costing the company $5 million in contracts, Wadi said.

The landlord at the chain’s flagship location in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis even revoked the company’s lease, fearing the building would be attacked.

The landlord at the chain's flagship location in Minneapolis' Midtown Global Market has even revoked the company's lease.

The landlord at the chain’s flagship location in Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market has even revoked the company’s lease.

In the end, Majdi had to lay off about a third of his employees, many of whom had worked for the company for 15 to 20 years.

Majdi said the ordeal took its toll on his daughter, who found another job at a restaurant but was quickly hounded when protesters discovered where she worked.

Now Lianne plans to move abroad to start a new life, he said. Majdi said he offered to re-enlist her in the family business, but she declined, fearing the Holy Land would have further repercussions.

‘She said, ‘No, I’m not coming back.’ She’s beating herself up,’ he said. “She still believes she is responsible for all the people who have lost their jobs.”

“Honestly, I’m so worried and concerned about her,” Majdi said of his daughter.

Majdi said he is speaking out because he is concerned about the direction the country is heading.

“I’m saying I’m not here to defend these tweets, they’re terrible, they don’t represent who she is or who we are as a family,” he said.

But he said his daughter and the family business don’t deserve “life imprisonment” for the racist tweets she sent when she was 16 years old.

Majdi said he is speaking out because he is concerned about the direction the country is heading

Majdi said he is speaking out because he is concerned about the direction the country is heading

“If the police stop someone for speeding, they can’t shoot him in the head. They can’t give him life in prison. It’s a speeding ticket,’ he said.

“Guys wake up please, the whole world is changing. And we must stay united and come together. Let’s disagree, we have to disagree from here until tomorrow, it’s healthy,” Majdi said.

“America for me is not just a place to raise money. This is home. This is home, I’m going to defend my home, I would give my life to defend my home,” he added.

In a commentary, Weiss stressed that she doesn’t like the term cancel culture, says it’s overused, but expressed fears that the phenomenon of mob shaming on social media is having a deeply chilling effect on America.

“The main goal is to send a message to everyone else: get off the line and you’re next,” Weiss said.

“Normal people who see others being attacked, expelled or demonized have a completely human response. They remain silent,’ she added.

“The threat of public shaming has been tremendously, tremendously astonishingly effective. It has led to an epidemic of self-denial and fear,” she said. “It’s time to come out. It’s time to speak honestly.’

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